The Crimson Peak collaborators discuss what Nightmare Alley and The Eyes of Tammy Faye have in common: “You don’t fool people, they fool themselves.”
In Reunited, Awards Insider hosts a conversation between two Oscar contenders who have collaborated on a previous project. Here, we speak with Nightmare Alley director Guillermo del Toro and Eyes of Tammy Faye star Jessica Chastain, who previously worked together on the 2015 film Crimson Peak.
Guillermo del Toro has something going on with women with keys.
When the Oscar-winning Mexican director and Jessica Chastain reunite in Los Angeles to talk about their work together—on both Mama and Crimson Peak—along with their current projects—Nightmare Alley and The Eyes of Tammy Faye—Chastain points out that at least two of del Toro’s films have featured a woman with keys.
First, it was in 2001’s The Devil’s Backbone, in which Carmen (Marisa Paredes) is the keeper of the keys of the orphanage. And then in Crimson Peak, it’s Chastain’s character, Lucille, who always has a dangling set of house keys at her side. Del Toro himself realizes that Nightmare Alley also has a woman with keys, this time played by Cate Blanchett. “Freud would have something to say about that,” he jokes about this recurring theme.
“What is it about a woman with a ring of keys who could lock you into scary rooms that is so scary?” asks Chastain.
The pair have an easy rapport after having worked so closely on two films. After meeting to talk about Mama, the 2013 horror film that del Toro produced for director Andy Muschietti, the pair was brought back together for 2015’s Crimson Peak, in which Chastain got to really dig in as the baddie Lucille.
Chastain plays a very different character in her latest film, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, for which she’s already earned a SAG Award nomination. But the televangelist whose husband swindled people out of millions of dollars does have something in common with the characters in del Toro’s noir drama: They’re all looking to get ahead by taking advantage of the faith of others. Vanity Fair explored this thematic connection with the pair, along with reminiscing about their early work.
Vanity Fair: What do you remember about the first time you met?
Jessica Chastain: I was on crutches.
Guillermo del Toro: On crutches, and you were wearing a super baggy T-shirt, and we met—
Chastain: —at Shutters.
Del Toro: Shutters at the Beach, to have breakfast and talk about Mama.
Chastain: Yes, that’s right. And he’s talking to me about doing a horror film, and I stumble in on crutches. You’re like, “What happened?”
Del Toro: But you had notes, even on crutches. “How is this going to be done?” And what was great is we were talking about horror as a possible genre for great stories or great emotion.
Chastain: I love this genre. Mama was my first horror film, actually. And I’ve said it in multiple interviews, that I love the genre, because it really is, for me, at the time, especially 10 years ago, it was one of the few genres that showed women as I believe we are, as really strong and heroic. And it was rare to find those kinds of superheroes in other genres.
Del Toro: Yes. And it’s so emotional. If you tap it with a story that has sort of a mythical dimension, which Mama did—that ending, I still don’t know how we got away with that.
Chastain: That was actually one of my notes: “Do you promise it’s going to end like this?” Because that’s what made the film so cool.